We are starting something new on our blog where each month we will feature a different non-profit dedicated to environmental and/or climbing causes. Our hope with this series is to help raise awareness of the awesome work that these organizations are doing for our community and hopefully inspire some of our followers to get involved!
Our first non-profit feature is about Friends of Trees (FOT), an Oregon-based non-profit that is dedicated to improving the natural world by planting more trees. They work in both natural areas (parks and greenspaces) as well as urban areas, helping to increase tree cover and thereby improve the health of communities that reside there. Their work doesn't just stop at planting, because FOT also cares for and maintains the trees that they plant. In a given year, FOT monitors and cares for more than 54,000 trees!
The following infographic from their site gives a better picture of the importance of trees in our communities.
Over email I caught up with Jenny Bedell-Stiles, the Volunteer and Outreach Manager for Friends of Trees, to find out more about this awesome organization.
What is your current position/role at FOT? How did you get involved with FOT and why?
I'm the Volunteer & Outreach Manager and I originally got involved with FOT as a kid, volunteering with my family.
What is the mission of FOT? Why was the organization formed?
The Friends of Trees mission is to inspire people to improve the world around them through a simple solution: Planting trees. Together. We were founded to aid the community in planting trees in parks and neighborhoods, especially in areas where there are fewer trees. We create fun volunteer events where neighbors can get to know one another while making an area cleaner, healthier, and more livable for generations to come.
How does FOT benefit communities here in Oregon? Are there any examples of projects or initiatives you can point to that really highlight what FOT does?
When the areas where we live, work, and play have trees, the air and water are cleaner, and it's a safer, more beautiful place to live for everyone (trees are even shown to lower stress, and who doesn't need less stress these days!). Of all the areas of Salem, OR, North and East Salem have the lowest tree canopy cover. For that reason, all of our planting projects in the 2020-21 season in Salem are within the N/E area, where we're focused on greening parks and neighborhoods. We're proud partners with the City of Salem to tackle inequities with urban tree distribution -- and welcome community members to join our events to be part of the solution!
Are there any big plans for FOT in the next few years? What are some long term goals?
There is grave inequality in how trees are distributed within Oregon's urban areas, and who has access to jobs working within urban forestry. You can pretty much directly tell which urban areas have higher socio-economic status by which areas have the most tree canopy. That's not okay. We all deserve to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and be able to safely walk to a local park where our kids can play among trees. We're committing to listening and working closer with BIPOC communities and lower-income communities to hear their concerns around trees, as well as work with our state, regional, and city leaders to break down these barriers.
How can people get involved with FOT/ What is the best way to help?
A great way to help is to come out and plant with us! The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more difficult to gather safely in groups. But we're hoping springtime might be safer. And if not then, we'll start planting again next Oct.- April. To see all our events and sign-up online, check out our planting calendar and our COVID-19 Volunteer FAQ. We have spring events scheduled on Saturday mornings in NE Salem, as well as Eugene and the Portland-Metro area. All are welcome, no experience needed! We provide the gloves, tools, and instruction -- and you bring your energy to plant and make a difference!
I have to ask, what is your favorite tree?
Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menziesii)
Planting trees. Together